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Warmblood By Scot Tolman


experienced. When you’re a kid, you have no clue that jumping off a 20-foot bridge into unknown waters could possibly be dangerous. You’re blithely ignorant. Once you have kids, a mortgage and comfort stretch-chinos, the scenario takes on a completely diff erent perspective, however. I just watched Rich Fellers ride a clean round on the London course on his really cool, little, Irish stallion, Flexible. Rich is 52. Those jumps have got to look diff erent to him now then they did 30 years ago. What was an exciting triple combination that provided an exhilarating challenge must on some level have become two strides to a broken neck and a bounce to wishing you had disability insurance. Ian Millar is in his tenth


H


Olympics. Tenth. The man was born in 1947. He was in his 40s when some of his teammates and competitors were born and in his 50s when some of the 2012 Olympic gymnasts were born. It’s incredible. The thought


of galloping up to an Atlantic of a water


jump leaves me both wistful and slightly nauseous. Hiroshi Hoketsu, riding in dressage for Japan, is 71. I read an interview with him in which he says he is not as strong as he once was, but his lovely horse, Whisper, recognizes this and compensates for him. Hoketsu also says that he fi nds his motivation in the fact that he is improving so much as a rider. Even more remarkable, he competed in his fi rst Olympics as a show-jumper in 1964. These men have somehow found a way to combat the requisite fear that naturally comes with decreased bone density and double chins.


Last year, we all kept Denny Emerson and his family in our thoughts after his accident at Stoneleigh-Burnham. This year, Jim Koford is on a three-month, no- weight-bearing-on-his-right leg mandate after a nasty fall off of a student’s horse at a clinic that shoved the head of his femur into his hip socket. A few years ago, a 4-H leader in Massachusetts was killed


82 September/October 2012


ave you ever noticed that one’s fear threshold is directly proportionate to one’s age? The older you get, the more you’ve seen, heard, and


while cleaning out her horse’s feet. She knew the horse well and wasn’t doing anything she


hadn’t done thousands of times, but something went wrong. I know I’m stating the obvious, but horses are dangerous.


They’re big, quick, and not all that bright. My wife won’t allow either my son or me to have a motorcycle,


because they’re too dangerous. Yet, she leaves for work each week knowing I’m alone on the farm handling large equine beasties. We become inured to the dangers. Over the years, I’ve been bitten, stepped on, kicked in a location that should have precluded reproduction, momentarily knocked out by an errant hoof while collecting a stallion, and, most recently, run over and pinned under a gate by a 1,200-pound, hormonal broodmare. Other than the serendipitous timing of a loose goat jumping onto the picnic table I was using for a mounting block causing the mare I was in the process of getting on to bolt, and leaving me suspended in mid- air for all too short of a time, most of the horse-related accidents in which I’ve been involved during my adult life have not been the result of pure stupidity or ignorance. They’ve been the result of dealing on a daily basis with large animals who are evolutionarily programmed to fl ee at the slightest danger, i.e., the same piece of plastic sheeting they’ve passed twice daily for three months. I know my columns are normally more humorous than


this, but the timing of watching senior citizen Olympic equestrians and my still recovering from the scariest horse accident that’s ever happened to me have left me wanting to use the iconic Hill Street Blues quotation, “Let’s be careful out there.”


Scot Tolman has been breeding


Dutch Warmbloods for over 20 years at Shooting Star Farm in Southwestern New Hampshire. Read more of Scot’s writing at shootingstarfarm.com.


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